Food giant Unilever is to become the first major manufacturer to
put its weight behind the controversial area of genetically modified
Unilever is to relaunch its Beanfest brand, carrying labels that alert
customers to the presence of genetically modified soya beans.
The process involves the food being improved in the laboratory to allow
it to last longer, taste better and cost less.
But green pressure groups have already dubbed the modified products
’Franken-foods’ and threatened organised boycotts.
Unilever’s chairman, Niall FitzGerald, believes that genetic
modification (GM) is worth investing in. The company is looking at ways
it can help to reassure consumers but maintains that the level of GM
soya beans in the market is so high that it cannot avoid using them.
In the US, genetically modified foods have been introduced over the past
few years and have met with little consumer resistance.
Unilever’s announcement will pave the way for more food manufacturers to
announce the presence of GM in their products as the genetically
modified soya beans enter the food market.
However, in the UK Unilever could be facing a tougher battle to reassure
According to the Consumers’ Association, public concern about the safety
of GM foods has risen to an all-time high as consumers question the
consequences for health.
Unilever has unleashed a PR offensive to assuage any fears among
Last year, Sainsbury’s walked into controversy when it launched a
genetically modified tomato puree.
This week, Guy Walker, chairman of Van den Bergh Foods, part of
Unilever, told a conference: ’For the consumer to become and remain
informed about the way modern bio-technology could affect them, we need
a continuing and open debate about the role of genetic modification in
Unilever is taking the step ahead of a European Union decision on
whether all such products must be specially labelled.